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December 8, 2017



NS turns ideological

And this is no pun. Towards the end of his political career, age, illness and all, he has inducted the new and the bold into his Central Executive Committee; his daughter, Maryam – a likely heir - and Hamza, Shahbaz’s son, to keep the family even while retaining veterans in a potent mix. Call it the brain-trust. Add to it someone like Marriyum Aurangzeb, a particularly smart spokesperson for the party – and his daughter’s protégé – and you know which way NS is going.
The Mushahidullahs, Pervez Rashids and Saad Rafiques will add the strength of their political acumen to whatever may emerge as the collective taste of this composition. Ch Nisar, SS himself and the perpetual Zafarul Haq may be bleak in imposing any reformism in this environment. The direction of Nawaz’s future politics is well set.
Call it the final hurrah before the dusk of his political life, but it remains NS’ final act. Which way it comes out is anyone’s guess. He had a rather bad hand to play with at the beginning but by staking his all he hopes redemption may finally arrive. Given his predicaments it may be a tough ask but if providence was soft on him he just may manage a way out. Hence the haste in his manner and speech. It is also borne out of guilt of having been badly exposed. To be fair, though, the courts are still at it – to determine if he can be convicted. But whatever is out there stinks; and this is not how he wanted it. The Panama leaks have been a bad dream. If he can survive this it shall be through providence’s special favour. If not, it is curtains for him. That should explain his desperation.
Now the ideology. The deal is pretty well cut. The reformists are out-numbered by the confrontationists in the party and that is the direction which this committee and the 109-member Action Committee will follow. The others – electables – will be beneficiaries of attachment to this political association that they may have no control over but which

promises to return disproportionate favours, were it to succeed. There isn’t a better illustration of how the larger Pakistani polity is centred only around the patron-client dynamic without regard to the higher purpose and motives of public service. These remain abysmally absent from any consideration, leaving politics only as a power game between the few who sit atop the pile of the exploited and manipulated.
Below these electables are the voters who have their own clientele-responsibilities to fulfil even as they hope for the patronage of the few they will elect. What ideology is, or what ideology now Mian Sb prefers, is far above their pay-scale. Nor do they understand these nuances; though it is in their name and in the name of their vote’s sanctity that NS and the CEC will now increasingly posit their strategy for the next phase. The voter may not know it but it is in his name that NS and the CEC will now seek exclusivity from any parallel inhibitor.
Along this route to seek the untouchable mantle in the hierarchical structure of Pakistan’s power elites, this desire comes into conflict with the constitution and rule of law. Whether he can breach this barrier of checks by law and the constitution with this last gasp attempt is to be seen but it certainly will bring him into conflict with the dictates of governance in modern states. Thankfully for him, the people who will vote for his nominees understand none of this and may still end up voting his party into power, perhaps not in the numbers that will grant him unbridled authority to suit his taste but sufficiently for him to hope to earn a reprieve from the politico-legal stranglehold that binds him post Panama. That will then generate another conflict.
Mere confrontation cannot be an ideology, though the young in his team will have difficulty grasping this nuance. The difficulty with mimicking ZAB or BB is in the substance of it and not the form. Both actually pursued an ideology and did their politics around such intuition. You could name it too – left, progressive, pro-poor, politically liberal, Islami musawat (equality around Islamic dictates); power to the people etc. ZAB even dabbled with an economic philosophy entirely upending the one on which the social economics of the time was premised. No other leader has had the intellect to deepen his/her politics to that level of competence. That was ideology.
Pakistani politics thus remains frayed and fragmented in substance since it only deals with political power sans purpose. That is why sloganeering revolves around being anti-this and anti-that, the military and the judiciary being the only definable quantities of such harangue. Without a framework for any socioeconomic contribution is it any surprise then that society and state appear so separated, and confrontation and agitation the only currency of politics?
Mian Sb would most likely explain his new found idealism by stating simply: ‘I was once your man, not any longer. I am my own man’. Is that enough of a qualification for an ideology? In political science parlance, it will be destitute; in our own environment it explains the basis of where our politics resides. Similarly, when NS seeks the sanctity of the vote and the ultimate supremacy of their choice as yet another ideological manifestation – over all other elements of statehood and nationhood – he challenges the foundations around which the state exists. The constitution and the law however define the confines of any such inclination for arbitrariness. In any modern state, parallel growth of all institutions remains the key to a secure and stable state and nationhood. By following the line of his recovery strategy in politics he continues to call such stability into question.
What is even more important is how he will define his revised purpose in politics to an electorate largely uninitiated in sophistry. Or, to what detail will he actually venture into any such explanation knowing that the existing political make-up of society remains so far removed from reading manipulation. To most of his voters the military remains the most respected institution in the country and the recent judicial independence away from the tradition of kowtowing to authority, at least for the moment, seems rather promising. While this ushers in hope for those who have been left behind in the democratic sweepstakes, their leader’s vendetta can only engender great confusion and disappointment. It will be interesting to see how this dichotomy plays itself out in the next elections. The people may again be the only suckers in this high-stakes power-play.
The PML-N missed an opportunity to expand its portfolio of idealism by taking a position in the recent dharnas but went missing at the critical juncture. Rather its compromise and overt acquiescence to theocratic populism harmed its reputation with the liberal sections of society that the PML-N hoped to impress with its ideological moorings. Progression in thought thus remains largely restricted to the tiny world of social media, leaving doubts about the spots that the tiger wears. The larger populace, on the other hand, will never learn what they voted for.